Hip-Hop and Gaming go hand-in-hand
As nerdcore hip-hop turns 20-years-old, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at the astoundingly huge role hip-hop music has played in the world of video games. From basic beats in O.G. games up to the soundtrack choices in Madden NFL, NBA 2K, and even Grand Theft auto hip-hop has always played a huge part in video gaming. To try and break the entire story down into a readable narrative would be a fool’s errand, so instead, we give you the top 5 hip-hop related video games of all time.
Def Jam Fight For New York
Let me start off by saying … DUH! Def Jam Fight For New York isn’t just one of the greatest hip-hop related games of all time, it also might be one of the single best fighting games ever too! The roster of hip-hop superstars is stacked, the soundtrack is hot, the story is deep, and the gameplay is phenomenal. It’s just an all-around masterpiece with a level of detail rarely seen in any video game, let alone a fighter. I mean seriously, how many video games find a way to incorporate trips to the barbershop and jewelry story without starting to feel tedious? Def Jam Fight For New York would have been an amazing game wearing any skin, but the fact that such a good engine was used so that we could pit Snoop Dogg into a death battle with Method Man proves there just might be a god after all.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Hip-hop’s role in San Andreas may be slightly more subversive than it is in Fight For New York, but that doesn’t make it any less pivotal to the story and tone of the game. GTA:SA has its plot rooted in many of the real-life instances that lead to the rise of gangster rap in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and frankly, it would just be hard to tell a story about L.A. street gangs in that decade without it being heavily steeped in hip-hop culture. From the soundtrack to the slang hip-hop’s influence on San Andreas is undeniable, they even used the likenesses of rappers of the era to drive the story authentically home.
PaRappa the Rapper
It may not be the greatest game of all-time, but love has to be shown for a classic. PaRappa the Rapper is widely considered the first true “rhythm” game and is pretty much the first game to truly incorporate rap music by name. Other games may have alluded to rap and paid homage to it. But, in 1996 when PaRappa came out hip-hop music was still considered fairly risque and wasn’t as widely accepted in mainstream culture as it is now. In fact, PaRappa can actually take some of the credit for making hip-hop culture and rap music far more acceptable to mainstream culture than it was before the game was released.
NBA Street Volume 2
Obviously I am aware that NBA Street is a basketball franchise, but hip-hop’s influence looms quite large for this series. From the throwback jerseys to the host/DJ at every game, to the soundtrack, and graffiti influenced set design, this game is basically just “what would basketball be like if it were just a bit more hip-hop. They even get break dancing involved with certain special dunks and celebrations. The game really is a celebration of the 3 out of the 4-elements of hip-hop. It brings in Djing, B-Boying, and graffiti while replacing the MC with what could easily be seen as the unofficial fifth element, basketball.
Wu-Tang: Shao Lin Style
Wu-Tang Clan may just be the greatest rap stable ever assembled and there are many that would argue to the death that multiple members of the Wu belong in the conversation for greatest rapper of all-time. The mere fact that in the year 1999 a rap group of this caliber was putting their stamp on fighting games is worthy of note. But, the fact that they did a damn decent job makes it all the better. An obvious precursor to what became EA Sports Big and Def Jam’s killer fighting game franchise, this game paved the way for greatness, thus becoming great itself.